Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “A Foreign Country” as Want to Read:
A Foreign Country
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

A Foreign Country (Thomas Kell #1)

3.77  ·  Rating Details ·  3,762 Ratings  ·  476 Reviews
From the internationally acclaimed, New York Times bestselling author of The Trinity Six, Charles Cumming, comes A Foreign Country, a compelling tale of deceit and betrayal, conspiracy and redemption

On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris. Ameli
Audio CD, 8 pages
Published August 7th 2012 by Macmillan Audio (first published January 1st 2012)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about A Foreign Country, please sign up.

Popular Answered Questions

Louis I bought my copy from Waterstones for £8.99
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Chelsea Humphrey
Nov 26, 2016 Chelsea Humphrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-publisher
This is part 1 of 3 in a blog post on the Thomas Kell series; find the entire post here:

On the vacation of a lifetime in Egypt, an elderly French couple are brutally murdered. Days later, a meticulously-planned kidnapping takes place on the streets of Paris. Amelia Levene, the first female Chief of MI6, has disappeared without a trace, six weeks before she is due to take over as the most influential spy in Europe. It is the gravest crisis MI6 has faced i
Apr 06, 2012 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
This review isn’t an easy one to write, since I wanted to really like this book, instead of just liking it. The author has a handle on the spy thriller, and he more than proves his capabilities as a writer. But in order for me to really like a story, I have to become fully invested in the novel in some form or fashion, either through one or more characters, a hair-raising plot, or dialogue that projects louder than an Italian opera singer. And I didn’t get any of those feelings from this story.

Liz Barnsley
May 25, 2013 Liz Barnsley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So Hannah and Kate of Killer Reads/Harper Collins fame have been subtlety and well, not so much, nagging me to read this book for a while. Its a spy thriller. I wouldnt normally read one because although I adore “Spooks” as a tv show, I’ve never really had the inclination to read that type of story – I’ve always felt the action for spies is so much better in visual format. But those girls have never sent me down the wrong path so with a lot of trust I opened the pages. And well. They still have ...more
Steve Wilcockson
May 25, 2013 Steve Wilcockson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: thriller
I picked up this book with very little in the way of expectations due to not being aware of the author's previous works but thought I would take a chance after reading the recommendations on the book jacket.

What a fantastic and fun book. A spy thriller that was modern while embracing the history of the genre.

The main character and the team that come together over the course of the story all jump off the page as likeable and well written and I would be happy to read more of in further adventures
Charlene Intriago
I debated between 3 or 4 stars (sure wish we had those half-stars) but had to bump it up to a 4. Any time I can't put a book down, it must mean it's a 4. The author does a brilliant job of setting up the story in the first four chapters, and then slowly lets us get to know the main characters before truly drawing us into the story by the last quarter of the book. A disgraced former agent Thomas Kell is brought in to see what's going on with Amelia Levene, the soon to be first female chief of the ...more
Charles Cumming has gained a reputation as a successor to the inestimable John Le Carre. His sophisticated plots and knowledge of spycraft are second to none in the current crop of spy novelists. His last novel, “Trinity Six”, a re-imagined and taut look at the British spy scandal of the last century was brilliant.

However, “A Foreign Country” falls a little flat because the plot is a little short of the twists and turns that one wants from a spy novel.

Amelia Levane, the soon to be appointed hea
Aug 17, 2012 Andrew rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spy thrillers work best if they leave the reader guessing for at least half of the book while trying to piece together strands that are clearly connected – it’s just not clear how.

In the first half of A Foreign Country, the author’s sixth novel, Cumming achieves this admirably. A brutal and seemingly motiveless killing of a middle-aged French couple on holiday in Egypt; an MI6 operative, sidelined after a botched interrogation in Afghanistan and unaware of how desperately he wants to get back i
Mal Warwick
Aug 23, 2012 Mal Warwick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Spies in Conflict in Contemporary Europe

Although its pace picks up sharply about two-thirds of the way through the book and builds to a crescendo at the end, A Foreign Country is the slowest-paced and most contemplative of Charles Cumming’s spy stories.

MI6 agent Thomas Kell has been sacked because of what he believes to be political expediency by the Old Guard now running the shop. Assigned to collaborate with American operatives in Iraq interrogating prisoners, he was forced to take the rap whe
Mar 23, 2013 Danuta rated it really liked it
Audio books are invaluable, not just to the visually impaired, to whom they open up a world of books that was previously restricted. They also offer a different way of experiencing a book to all readers. There are potential disadvantages though. When reading the print version of a book, the reader can interpret the text is ways they choose, visualise the characters in the way the text suggests to them, hear their voices in the way the reader thinks these voices should sound. An audio book interp ...more
Mar 27, 2012 Ryan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read-won
I read A Foreign Country because I wanted a crime drama that would build suspense and throw twist and turns at me. It made me wonder what exactly different governments secret services do without the public knowing what is actually going on.

A foreign Country is Charles Cumming sixth novel. Just like his previous works, it is centered on the British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS). Cumming has proven to be a successful spy novel writer. This is to be the first in a series of novels about Thomas
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
May 08, 2012 Tad rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Excellent slow-boiler of a spy novel. While not depending on constant action, this book still manages to be a real page-turner. Well-written and fleshed out characters leave you constantly guessing as to motives and whether or not a double or triple-cross is brewing.

Cummings also manages to paint various locales vividly so they feel like real and distinct places. Likewise, his description of the real tasks of spycraft, both exciting and mundane, add a level of sophistication to his work. The out
May 08, 2012 Linda rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A fast paced thriller that spans twenty-five years and a forced retired Thomas Kell is called back to the British MI6 to find a missing soon to be chief of operations but finds himself in the middle of solving a double murder in Egypt and Amelia's secret.
Feb 21, 2015 Helen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved it!,
Apr 30, 2012 Janet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-read-wins
I receieved this book as a 1st read win....way back early May.

I got about 40 pages in and managed to break my glasses. Oops. I'm not getting into the next four and a half weeks of complete frustration waiting for a decent pair of WORKING glasses. Only good thing about not being able to see is how much easier (& faster) the housework became.

A word to the wise - if you're having to wear trifocals, GET A SPARE PAIR.

I love spy stories and A Foreign Country did not disappoint. It started thirty-
Stacie (MagicOfBooks)
I received this book through the Goodreads First-Reads giveaway.

This was a really enjoyable book. I think I was quite surprised. So who exactly would I recommend this book to: if you like British intelligence thrillers and love the British TV show Spooks (MI-5 for us Americans) then this is the book for you.

The book starts with an ex-MI6 agent Thomas Kell being hired to search for the new head of MI6's (Amelia Levene) son. The book takes place mostly in France, but returns to England briefly in
Apr 29, 2016 Hannah rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: spy
Oh dear. How can a spy story be this boring? I don't mean demanding like a John le Carre novel. This is dullness without depth.
The characters consist of tedious middle aged people in unhappy marriages. There's an unpleasant sneering tone to it all, for example; "The woman, bottle blonde and upholstered in white leather was far younger than her partner and wore the spoiled-milk look of a mistress growing tired of her role."
I did laugh aloud at one point, when our hero makes a mistake. He was that
Jun 01, 2015 Pamela rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Amelia Levene, newly promoted head of MI6, has disappeared. Keen to keep this under wraps, MI6 turn to ex-spy Thomas Kell, who sets off on Amelia's trail. It soon becomes clear that Amelia has secrets of her own, and Kell has to find the truth and keep out of danger himself.

Unlike many authors of espionage thrillers, Charles Cumming has a straightforward style, even when dealing with complex threads of the plot. This makes for a very readable and exciting book. There are all the usual features o
Anne Karine
I debated on whether to give this book one or two stars, because I truly wanted to like it, but in the end it just left me feeling bitterly disappointed that I'd spent hours of my life reading it.
It takes forever to get going, and even when it does you can mostly tell where it's going to end, and there's practically no suspense regarding anything.
There's also a lot of descriptions that I think are designed to make you feel super smart and into spycraft, but instead they make you feel as if the
Jun 08, 2014 Clare rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow! Possibly the best spy novel I have ever read. I devoured the double-and-triple crosses, the flawed characters with humanity, the unspoken agreements and betrayals. I have read Ian Fleming, John le Carre and Robert Ludlum, but I'm almost reluctant to read any more of Charles Cumming, in case his other books don't measure up.

When the incoming head of MI6 mysteriously disappears, disgraced ex-agent Thomas Kell is dispatched to discover exactly what happened. Sex-capade? Selling secrets? The tr
Sherri Huntley
Apr 29, 2012 Sherri Huntley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: first-reads
A French couple celebrating their retirement with a vacation at a resort in Egypt are found brutally murdered. Their murder leads to the reunion of Amelia Levene, soon to be the Chief the British Secret Service, and the son she hasn’t seen since giving him up for adoption. Amelia disappears and Thomas Kell, recently fired MI6 officer, is hired to find her before anyone finds out. What follows is a twisting, turning mystery that keeps you turning page after page. As the book evolves, secrets, con ...more
Amanda Tower
Jun 11, 2012 Amanda Tower rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wasn't quite sure about this book at first. It started out a little slow for my tastes, and I was lost by the first few chapters. But when this book picks up and starts making sense, look out! I couldn't put it down! There was always so much action going on that even when I told myself I was stopping at a specific chapter for the night, I read on anyway.

The characters (especially Kell and Amelia) were very easy to get attached to, and I found myself engrossed in their story from about 1/4 of
R.J. Lynch
Jun 21, 2014 R.J. Lynch rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As good as spy fiction gets. Charles Cumming has written at least five spy stories. I know that because this was the first of his that I had read and, as soon as I had finished it, I ordered the other four. The standard of writing is breathtakingly good. The plotting is faultless. The characters are brought completely to life. Discovering Charles Cumming was like reading John Le Carre or Len Deighton again for the first time after all these years. If you like spy fiction, you'll love this. Even ...more
Jo Weston
Apr 13, 2015 Jo Weston rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: full-deck-2015, 2015
Another really good spy novel. Enjoyed this less than A Colder War, but I think that is mostly because this story should have been read first, so some of the sting and anticipation had been taken away as the events of this book are fairly heavily referred to in A Colder War. It is important they are read in the right order!

Great style though, and still love the main character, Tom Kell. Waiting eagerly for the third one in the series..
Sep 30, 2014 Natalia rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, library, 2014
The first two thirds of the book were a slog - they dragged out, they were almost boring, and I didn't see where the intrigue was going to happen. and then all of a sudden it did. The last third of the book was fast and exciting, though ultimately, I thought the author just glossed over the bad guys' motivation. I would have liked to have had a better understanding of what they thought they were going to accomplish.
Andrew Smith
May 22, 2012 Andrew Smith rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I haven't read Le Carre (well maybe one, long ago) with whom Cumming is often compared, so I can't supply a reliable view as to their relative merits; I can say that I've really enjoyed all the Cumming books I've read and that in my view he's a brilliant story teller. If you like complex tales with plenty of twists and action this should right up your street. Probably not quite as good as Typhoon but very good all the same.
Paul Rowley
Oct 24, 2013 Paul Rowley rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
My word, tricks and trails and mystery, it's got it all. Never heard of this author before but took a chance in the library. I love the way he starts off laying out what's gone on so you know the path but then turns everything around as you get deep into the book. So liked it that I'm about to embark upon his Trinity Six.
Aug 31, 2012 Sarah rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
3.5 stars. I am fairly new at the spy novel genre, so I don't know if this is a norm. I loved that there was very little in the way of violent action, it was centered around the who and the why of the conspiracy. I was expecting car chases, gun shootouts, etc. The pacing was good, and there were a couple memorable side characters. Perhaps he will make this a series.
Amit Tiwary
Aug 20, 2015 Amit Tiwary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015-books
This is a good, fastpaced, and #all_ingredients_of_a_spy_thriller/#ready_to_make_holly_movie kind of book. If you read too much of spy thrillers and read the greats of John Le Carre and etc, this book leaves you wanting for more. This is NOT in the league of Carre or the league of 'Extraordinary' Spy thrillers. But then this is a good one time read.
Georgie Peters
Fast-paced thriller that offers a nice page-turning spy mystery. The "twist" in the story wasn't that surprising, and as a whole it didn't wow me, so only 3 stars - I felt it lacked depth of character. But still fairly enjoyable, and easy to read. Worth checking out if you like the genre.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Espionage Fiction...: Idea 1 40 Aug 11, 2012 07:49AM  
  • A Thousand Bayonets
  • The Shanghai Factor
  • A Spy's Life
  • Bloodmoney: A Novel of Espionage
  • The Darkling Spy
  • Secret Asset (Liz Carlyle, #2)
  • Slow Horses (Slough House, #1)
  • An American Spy (The Tourist, #3)
  • The Blood Royal (Joe Sandilands #9)
  • Clawback (Silas Cade #1)
  • The Paris Directive
  • The Small Boat of Great Sorrows
  • A Delicate Truth
  • Old Flames (Inspector Troy, #2)
Charles Cumming is British writer of spy fiction. His international bestselling thrillers including A Spy By Nature, The Spanish Game, Typhoon and The Trinity Six. A former British Secret Service recruit, he is a contributing editor of The Week magazine and lives in London.
More about Charles Cumming...

Other Books in the Series

Thomas Kell (3 books)
  • A Colder War (Thomas Kell, #2)
  • A Divided Spy (Thomas Kell, #3)

Share This Book

“grave. ‘I don’t know,’ Akim replied,” 0 likes
“Akim replied,” 0 likes
More quotes…